Until a couple of weeks ago I had never heard of Bakau. If you had asked me where it was I would have guessed at one of the Russian states – somehow the name just has that ring to it, but in fact it’s in the Gambia on the west coast of Africa. Bakau is part of the Kombos a sort of conglomeration of small towns near Banjul – in fact it’s where most of the tourists stay when they visit the Gambia. The reason I’m interested in Bakau is that I’ve just applied for a placement there as an “Agricultural Extensionist”. This is a post with the Ministry of Agriculture and my role will be to help support technical and vocational training to better enable staff  share their skills and knowledge with farmers and in particular the youth, who in Gambia make up about 60% of the poor. This training could include encouraging them to grow improved crop varieties, helping to promote skills like soil fertility maintenance and water management, and assisting them in finding better markets for their produce.

Of course my application may yet be refused, and having just completed my VSO Placement Analysis Form in which I’m required to match my qualifications, skills and experience to the criteria specified by the employer, I’ve found myself lacking in one or two areas which I would consider essential. However it seems that it is very rare to find a volunteer who matches exactly, and apparently employers need to be flexible about their requirements – the job description can sometimes be changed to reflect the capabilities of the applicant. No doubt I’ll soon find out how flexible the Gambian Minister of Agriculture

Hon Solomon Owens

(Mr Solomon Owens – but of course you knew that didn’t you?) is prepared to be!


As part of the pre-departure training with VSO volunteers are asked to undertake fundraising to not only generate income, but also to increase the profile of VSO. I have been reluctant to begin asking people for donations until I knew where I was going and what my job would be when I got there.

About three weeks ago I accepted a two year placement in Northern Ghana to begin in February, so began telling friends about it and drafted a letter requesting their support. Ten days later however I was notified that the partner employer in Ghana had not approved my appointment so I am now looking at an alternative placement, while at the same time trying to raise funds without an agreed destination. My Just Giving page went live within the last week and  I was expecting that in the current economic climate money would be difficult to raise, but friends have surprised me by their open handedness and I am very grateful for their support. Perhaps they think it’s worth it to get me out of the country for a while………….!